Audio: Nicollet Mall design team holds open house

An open house attendee writes on one of the poster boards Credit: Ben Johnson

On Dec. 5 an open house was held to get feedback for the planned Nicollet Mall redesign. People crowded into a heated tent set up near the corner of Nicollet and 11th St. to chat with a number of consultants working on the project. 

The design team is made up of eight different firms, led by world-renowned landscape architect James Corner.

“We sort of treat this as an open table. We want to engage as many people as we can and hear from different people about what they most want to see and what they least want to see and see what modifications might make sense,” said Corner.

People used stickers, post-it notes and markers to record their opinions about the future Nicollet Mall on six different poster boards. South Minneapolis resident Sam Rockwell uses the mall year-round. He even biked on Nicollet to the open house despite subzero temperatures.

“I think the philosophy should be that it’s usable and used at all times of day and all days of the week. Right now you come to Nicollet Mall at lunchtime in the summer and it’s awesome; you go on Sunday at 2 p.m. and it’s totally dead.

Joe Caper takes the 17 bus up Nicollet Mall to get to work, in addition to dining, shopping and people-watching on the mall.

“A better relationship between the skyway and the sidewalk is crucial to making Nicollet happening, you know what I mean? I see people all of the time in the summer down on the street but in the winter, of course it’s freezing so we’re all upstairs. That just kills smaller businesses or even not-so-small businesses on the street level. It just kills them,” said Caper.

Minneapolis has budgeted $1 million to get the project rolling, hoping that substantial investment will help its case when it asks for $25 million in state bonding money for the project this spring.

The city has tried and failed each of the last two years to get the state to kick in for a Nicollet redo, but new Downtown Council president Steve Cramer is confident this year will be different.

“This is really the time that it’s right for the state to invest. There have been previous efforts at the legislature, but looking back it’s probably true that it wasn’t quite time for the legislature to address, so they made the right decision to not move forward with the project. But this is the right time,” said Cramer.

Corner said his team will look at the feedback they received and continue tinkering with the design, while Minneapolis officials continue to lobby for the money they need to make the project a reality.

This is Ben Johnson, reporting for The Journal.